38, Founder/Executive Director of Kennedy’s Angel Gowns, Virginia Beach
Outreach Case Manager for the Steven A. Cohen Military Clinic at The Up Center, Virginia Beach (transitioning from Intake & Recruitment Manager for the Foster Care Department at The Up Center, Norfolk)
Business community involvement:
Kennedy’s Angel Gowns Board of Directors, Appointed as The Up Center Internal Compliance Committee Scribe, Appointed as Family Focused Treatment Association Secretary, Appointed as Tidewater Consortium of Foster Care Member
Kennedy’s Angel Gowns, Daniel’s Blessings
Something that makes you stand out in your industry?
What makes Kennedy’s Angel Gowns stand out from other organizations is that we provide burial gowns, financial assistance for funerals, a wealth of resources for grieving families and Cuddle Cots and Caring Cradles. As someone who has been through the tragic loss of a child, I can relate firsthand to families experiencing this loss. We also host two large events for families that not only raise awareness and funds for angel babies but also give a place for these families to remember and honor their babies.
Someone who keeps you motivated?
My motivation comes from my entire family! My mother and father for their strength, wisdom and lessons. My sisters for their support. My children who keep me motivated and bless my spirit with pure joy! My relationship with God and my faith in general. My husband who is truly my rock! My daughter in heaven who always gives me signs that she is my biggest cheerleader.
Tell us about a recent accomplishment that you’re proud of.
The most recent accomplishment that I am proud of is the Bereavement Room at Norfolk Sentara. This combined birthing and bereavement suite is not common in the United States—although they are commonplace in other parts of the world. The concept is unique for our region. Research says the way parents are cared for following the diagnosis of a life-limiting condition for their baby in pregnancy or following stillbirth has considerable impact on their grieving process.
Most important aspect you look for in a workplace?
The most important aspect is a workplace that is honest, with open communication, positive values and an emphasis on health and family.
What would you be doing if you weren’t in your current position?
If I were not in my current full-time position at The Up Center, I would be working with Kennedy’s Angel Gowns full time.
What do you think is Coastal Virginia’s biggest challenge?
Coastal Virginia’s biggest challenge is that it is constantly in transition due to the heavy military population. In working with Kennedy’s Angel Gowns, I have seen firsthand that because this area is in constant transition, services/resources are difficult to find, and oftentimes people leave as soon as they are getting adjusted.
Favorite place in Coastal Virginia to go on the weekends?
The beach! It’s my place of peace, relaxation and clarity.
From her nomination:
“After Heather’s’ loss of her daughter she didn’t think she’d ever survive the tragedy of feeling emptiness. Heather dedicates herself to sewing these angel gowns, and helping others in their time of grief is her way of keeping her daughter Kennedy’s memory alive.”
—Shannon Gibson, event planner at The Up Center